Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dwen jang chigae/된장찌개 (bean paste soup)

Doenjang-jjigae (Bean Paste Stew)
If Koreans were asked to nominate a national dish, they would probably name doenjang jjigae. It is eaten very frequently throughout the country. The key to the flavor lies in the quality of the bean paste. Bean paste is made early each Lunar year by soaking meju (bean paste blocks shaped like bricks) in brine for forty days and then draining off the soy sauce this produces. The residue is mashed into a yellow paste. Other ingredients of doenjang jjigae can be tofu, clam meat, pork or beef, but some recipes are meatless. Seasonal vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, green peppers, and onions can also be added. Seasonings include garlic, anchovies, red pepper powder, and salt. A more exotic recipe, known as kungjung doenjang jjigae (royal soybean paste soup) calls for beef, mushrooms, tofu, and gingko nuts. How to eat: Eaten with a bowl of rice. Most Koreans mix rice with spoonfuls of stew.
Bean Paste Stew with Beef and Vegetables
D is for Doen Jang Chigae: Korean Bean Paste Stew

The way I make it is very simple, as I am usually in a hurry to make it so that I can just eat and do something else (cooking for 1 kinda sucks). I put the pot of water on and add a bit of da-shi-da (a soup base powder similar to beef oxo) and a spoon full of dwenjang paste. I usually taste it at this point to see if I want more paste or such. Then I add a little bit of mashed garlic, sliced onion, sliced squash (summer squash? similar to zucchini) and mushrooms (most kinds of mushrooms should work... I usually use the long skinny white ones), and sliced tofu (medium-soft?). Sometimes I'll add potato and red pepper paste (gochu jang) as well. I never really think about how much I am putting in. It all depends on how much I decide how much I like onions that day, for example. I don't pre-cut anything... I just add them in that order as the water is boiling, and then let it boil a couple more minutes once everything is in. Potatoes, of course, would take a bit more time.
I usually have more than enough for two big bowls full so I put a bowl in the fridge for the next day's lunch/dinner/what ever.

No comments: